Music Festivals

The Best of Coachella Weekend One

Coachella, man. Wow. Like a fine wine, you just keep getting better with age.

After gorging ourselves on Sumo Dogs and indie-pop, dancing ourselves dusty, head-banging to Death Grips and "Welcome to the Jungle," and maybe drinking a beer or seven, we sifted through the rubble and our reporter's notebooks for highlights, of which there were far too many to list. Overall, though, these were the sights, sounds, and moments that really stood out.

If you're going to weekend two and don't want any spoilers, stop reading now. But know this: Even if half of weekend one's surprise guests don't return, you're in for a wild one.

Read: More Coachella 2016 coverage

Robert DeLong, Kamasi Washington. and Lindsey Stirling Making Us Fucking Dance
Next to LCD Soundsystem, my favorite Friday performance came from Robert DeLong, a dance-music producer from Washington — now based in Echo Park — who is sort of the millennials' answer to Howard Jones, a geekily charming showman with a gift for making infectious, danceable pop. Live, DeLong is a one-man whirlwind, sprinting among three drum kits and using modified videogame consoles to pitch-shift his vocals and dish out various other quirky effects. But the highlight of his Outdoor Stage set was when he brought out a seemingly random but kinda brilliant combination of guest stars: L.A. sax giant Kamasi Washington and Lindsey Stirling, who can dance her ass off while shredding on violin. Together they dished out a version of DeLong's "Global Concepts" (AKA the "Did I make you fucking dance?" song) that had the whole Outdoor Stage crowd bouncing. — Andy Hermann

Mavis Staples Throwing Shade at Sia
The venerable 76-year-old soul singer's Friday 2 p.m. Gobi Tent set served as a stellar daylight entrée to a long, dusty weekend. Staples has still got powerful pipes and an even more powerful stage presence. During some of her charming riffs at the heat, the crowd, and the venue, she made note of the Gobi Tent's delightful chandeliers. "Maybe I should sing a song about them?" she smirked. "Nah, then that little girl gonna come out here and fight me!" Boom. Take that, Sia. Staples versus Sia: Coachella 2016 Weekend 2! We'd put it all on Staples in the first round of any scrap, vocal or otherwise, because that's the Chicago Way. — Paul T. Bradley

LCD Soundsystem's Sly Nod to Guns N' Roses
The Venn diagram of Axl Rose and James Murphy fans has only a sliver of overlap, so when LCD Soundsystem added a new coda to "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down" during its Friday night set, you could see the LCD masses exchanging confused looks, trying to place the lyrics. "Nothing lasts foreverAnd we both know hearts can change" — James Murphy wouldn't be caught dead writing anything that earnest. What song is this? Then he and Nancy Whang sang the next verses — "And it's hard to hold a candle/In the cold November rain" — and you could practically hear a collective "Ohhhh" rise from the crowd. — Andy Hermann

The Dammed's Cover of "Alone Again Or"
The British punk band's elder-statesman sass cannot be understated. "This is for Rolling Stone magazine, who couldn't fit this into their top 40 punk albums," mused the Damned's Captain Sensible from under his trademark red beret. "Anyone got a razor? I'm gonna end it all," he mugged later on. But the second they began their classic cover of Love's "Alone Again Or," everyone at other stages instantly became bereft. Does the average Coachellan know that he missed three and a half minutes of psychedelic greatness sandwiched between 50 minutes of punk-rock greatness? Probably not. That's fine; psychedelia has nothing to do with a bunch of people getting freaky in the desert. No, nothing at all. — Paul T. Bradley

Actual Police Carrying Away an Injured Dude During "Fuck Tha Police"
Sure, there's a lot to criticize the average police department for, and if you've come directly out of the city of Compton, California, then you've probably got a whole slew of aspersions you can cast in their direction. You might even want to dismiss the rough arm of the law with a stern and hearty "Fuck you." But they're not all bad. So when three-fifths of N.W.A. performed on Saturday night and an injured guy went down hard and the cops rushed in to help him, there was no shortage of irony that it happened during a certain song. "You guys aren't that bad," a fan reassured the helpful lawmen on their way out. Truth. — Paul T. Bradley

Sia's Disturbing (and Genius) Furry Performance Art
Her face covered with a black-and-white wig as she stood under a cold spotlight, alone, Sia's voice soared like a siren across the desert. It was night three, and while Sia pulled cameos from Kristen Wiig, Paul Dano, and Tig Notaro, the highlight wasn't star power but two furry faces, a panda and a rabbit, who mimed through the lyrics to "Titanium": "I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose/Fire away, fire away/Ricochet, you take your aim." At one point, the rabbit gouged the panda's eye, ripping it off (gasps in the crowd), which resulted in the panda using a giant pink hammer to viciously beat the rabbit. They hugged it out, held hands, boxed, and frolicked around the stage as the crowd, stunned by the surreal scene, pulled out their phones and snapped what may have been Coachella's weirdest performance. — Art Tavana

The 1975: Huey Lewis and the News for Millennials 
Why aren't they called the 1985? With his thick eyebrows and tattooed chest, partly obscured by the name of their hit single "Love Me" drawn on his cleanly shaven body, the 1975's Matt Healy wore shiny black loafers and grooved around the stage like he'd studied tapes of Huey Lewis, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Michael Stipe. Until Coachella's third day, I had never seen or really listened to the 1975 beyond a strange obsession I had with their 2013 hit single "Chocolate." During their Coachella main-stage performance on Sunday, the Manchester pop-rockers sounded funky, with soulful backup singers to support Healey, whose effeminate wildness had a massive crowd of young, sweaty girls screaming and singing along to every word. — Art Tavana

Axl Rose Meets AC/DC
We haven't had time to think about this. The news came just three hours before Guns N' Roses took the stage for the most anticipated performance at Coachella this year, so hard-rock fans are still just beginning to grasp the weight of Axl Rose fronting AC/DC for what will be 12 of the most talked-about shows of the year. On night two of Coachella, Rose invited AC/DC's Angus Young on the stage the rip through two Bon Scott-era classics, including "Whole Lotta Rosie," proving that he can crush these songs with his still-a-little-nasty falsetto. In the span of just six hours, GNR fans at Coachella were told us Axl would be fronting AC/DC,  got the first preview, and were left with yet another unsolved mystery: How will Axl sound singing Back in Black?  The delicious GNR melodrama continues. — Art Tavana

Holly Lapsley Fletcher will probably spend the next several years weathering a barrage of Adele comparisons, because she's a young British singer with a beautiful voice and a DGAF attitude. But after seeing her enchant a sizable crowd in the Mojave Tent on Friday afternoon, I'm convinced that she's a wholly original artist who's ready to carve her own path. Sporting green hair that matched her eyes and in-ear monitors, with three male backing musicians providing sparse but soulful accompaniment, Lapsley exuded quiet confidence, even when she admitted she was "shit scared" to be playing for such a big crowd. Her music, ethereal as James Blake's but with an emotional immediacy, got many festivalgoers' weekends off to a lovely start. — Andy Hermann

That Drummer From That One Band
Sometimes, a reporter's notebook is only as good as the reporter's cognizance and level of exhaustion. Just know that there was a band at Coachella this year whose one drummer fucking nailed it. I can't remember exactly which one, though. The Kills maybe? Sure, let's go with the Kills. That dude totally brought it. — Paul T. Bradley

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